Obafemi Awolowo, fully Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, commonly known as Awo

Obafemi
Awolowo, fully Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, commonly known as Awo
1909
1987

Nigerian Nationalist, Federalist and Social Democratic Statesman, Trade Unionist, Attorney and Author, Premier of Western Nigeria

Author Quotes

If we are in the habit of practicing the opposite of what we preach, our admonition will not only lose their force and cogency, but also we ourselves will forfeit every claim to credibility. An ounce of example, it has been widely said, is far better than a ton of precepts.

Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. There are no ?Nigerians? in the same sense as there are ?English,? ?Welsh,? or ?French.? The word ?Nigerian? is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria and those who do not.

Throughout my adult life, I have learnt about the development of the soul personality, I know the law and the prophets, that is to say, that love is the cornerstone of the universe both visible and invisible.

A greedy, corrupt, and evil administration is bound to wither, sooner or later, in the face of obsessive desire and mounting clamor on the part of the masses of the people for a welfare regime which will benefit all equally. In the course of time there will be a clash of desires and wills between the exploiters and the exploited. These clash of desires and wills will stir the universal mind into action, and a situation will then arise which will bring about the termination of or radical change in the greedy, and evil regime.

In a country where the accuracy of the census figures is so much in acrimonious dispute, it is gross and aggravating provocation to urge that population should be used as a basis of sharing what belongs to others who are much fewer in number.

Nigeria is not a nation. It is a mere geographical expression. The word Nigerian is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.

To: The Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government, Lagos. Thro: The Director of Prisons, Prisons Headquarters Office, Private Mail Bag 12522, Lagos. Sir: Prerogative Of Mercy: Section 101 (1) (A) of the Constitution of The Federation Act 1963 1. I am writing this petition for FREE PARDON under Section 101(1) (a) of the Constitution of the Federation Act 1963, on behalf of myself and some of my colleagues whose names are set out in the Annexe hereto. 2. Before I go further, I would like to stress that the reasons which I advance in support of this petition, in my own behalf, basically hold good for my said colleagues. For they share the same political beliefs with me, and have intense and unquenchable loyalty for the ideals espoused by the Party which I have the honour to lead. 3. There are many grounds which could be submitted for your consideration in support of this petition. But I venture to think that SEVEN of them are enough and it is to these that I confine myself. (a)In the course of my evidence during my trial, I stated that my Party favoured and was actively working for alliance with the N.C.N.C. as a means, among other things, of solving what I described as ?the problem of Nigeria?, and strengthening the unity of the Federation. In October 1963 (that is about a month after my conviction and while my appeal to the Supreme Court was still pending), a Peace Committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, made overtures to me through my friend Alhaji W. A. Elias to the effect that if I abandoned my intention to enter into alliance with the N.C.N.C. which, according to the Committee, was an Ibo Organisation, and agreed to dissolve the Action Group and, in co-operation with Chief Akintola (now deceased), form an all-embracing Yoruba political party which I would lead and which would go into alliance with the N.P.C., I would be released from prison before the end of that year. I turned down these terms because I was of the considered opinion that their acceptance would further widen and exacerbate inter-tribal differences, and gravely undermine the unity of the Federation. TODAY, THE MILITARY GOVERNMENT, OF WHICH YOU ARE THE HEAD, LEAVES NO ONE IN ANY DOUBT THAT IT STANDS FOR NIGERIAN UNITY. BUT IT MUST BE EMPHASISED, IN THIS CONNECTION, THAT IF I HAD PRIZED MY PERSONAL FREEDOM ABOVE THE UNITY OF NIGERIA, I WOULD HAVE BEEN SET FREE IN 1963. IN THAT EVENT, THIS PETITION WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY, AND THE WORK OF CONSOLIDATING THE UNITY OF THE COUNTRY TO WHICH YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES NOW SET YOUR HANDS MIGHT HAVE BEEN MADE EXTREMELY MORE INTRACTABLE AND IRKSOME. As recently as 20th December, 1965, identical peace terms (the only variant being that the alliance with the N.C.N.C. which was now a reality should be broken) were made to me here, in Calabar Prison, by a delegation representing another Peace Committee headed by the self-same Chief Justice of the Federation and purporting to have the blessing of the Prime Minister, with the unequivocal promise that if I accepted the terms my release would follow almost immediately. I rejected the terms for the reasons which I have outlined above. (b) One of the monsters which menaced the public life of this country up to 14th January, this year is OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils of jobbery, venality, corruption, and unabashed self-interest. From all accounts, you are inflexibly resolved to destroy this monster. That was precisely what my colleagues and I had tried to do before we were rendered hors de combat since 29th May, 1962. On two different occasions I was offered, first the post of Deputy Prime Minister (before May 1962), and second that of Deputy Governor-General (in August 1962), if I would agree to fold up the Opposition and join in a National Government. I declined the two offers because they were designed exclusively to gratify my self-interest, with no thought of fostering any political moral principle which could benefit the people of Nigeria. The learned Judge who presided over the Treasonable Felony Trial, commented unfavourably on my non-acceptance of one of these posts and held that my action lent weight to the case of the Prosecution against me. I must say, however, that in all conscience, I felt and still feel that a truly public-spirited person should accept public office not for what he can get for himself ? such as the profit and glamour of office ? but for the opportunity which it offers him of serving his people to the best of his ability, by promoting their welfare and happiness. To me, the two aforementioned posts were sinecures, and were intended to immobilise my talents and stultify the role of watch-dog which the people of Nigeria looked upon me to play on their behalf, at that juncture in our political evolution. (c) This leads me to the third ground. From newspaper reports, it would appear that you and your colleagues ? like all well-meaning Nigerians are anxious that on the termination of the present military rule, Nigeria should become a flourishing democracy. Now, democracy is a political doctrine which is very intimately dear to my heart. It was to the end that it might be accepted as a way of life in all parts of the Federation that I campaigned most vigorously and relentlessly in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, from 1957 to 1962, to the implacable annoyance of some of my political adversaries. It was to the end that this doctrine might survive the severe onslaught of opportunist and mercenary politics that I refused to succumb to the temptation of the National Government. Many views ? some of them well-considered and respectable ? have been expressed about the value or disvalue of opposition as a feature of public life in a newly emergent African State. Speaking for my party, I submit that the Opposition which I led did, to all intents and purposes, justify its existence and was acclaimed by the masses of our people as essential and indispensable to rapid- national growth. This was so, because it was unexceptionably constructive. The abrogation of the Anglo-Nigeria Defence Pact was one of the feathers in its cap. Some of the policies which the Government of the day later adopted ? such as the creation of a Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the introduction of drastic measures to correct our balance of payments deficit ? were among those persistently and constructively urged by the Opposition inside and outside Parliament. The point I wish to emphasise here is that it was not out of spite or hatred for any one that I chose to remain in Opposition instead of joining the much-talked-of National Government. I did so in order to serve our people to the best of my ability in the position in which their votes had placed my Party, and to ensure that the young plant of democracy grows into a sturdy flourishing tree in Nigeria. (d) Since the declaration of emergency in the Western Region on 29th May,1962, political tension has existed in Western Nigeria. My conviction on 11th September, 1963, together with the surrounding bizarre circumstances, has led not only to the heightening of that tension in Western Nigeria but also to its profuse and irrepressible percolation to the other parts of the Federation. The result is that it can be said, without much fear of contradiction, that today the majority of our people are passionately concerned about and fervently solicitous for the release of myself and my colleagues. The work of reconstruction on which you and your colleagues have embarked demands that all the citizens of Nigeria in their respective callings should give of their maximum best. A state of psychological tension, however much it may be brought under control or repressed, does not and cannot conduce to maximum efficiency. In spite of themselves, people labouring under emotions which this kind of tension automatically generates are bound to make avoidable mistakes which in their turn have adverse effects on national progress. It is, therefore, in the national interest that this tension should be relaxed, if possible, without further delay. (e) A petition of this kind is, by its very nature, bound to be replete with self-adulation. I hope and trust that, in the circumstances, this is excusable. It is in this hope and trust that I assert that my colleagues and I have the qualifications and capacity to render invaluable services to our people and fatherland. Every day that we spend in prison, therefore, must be regarded as TWENTY-FOUR UNFORGIVING HOURS OF TRULY VALUABLE SERVICES LOST TO OUR YOUNG COUNTRY. Even my most inveterate enemies have given the following testimony about me: ?AWOLOWO HAS STILL A GREAT DEAL TO GIVE TO THIS COUNTRY.? No country however advanced and civilized can afford to waste any of its talents, be they ever so small. Nigeria is too young to bury some of her talents as she was compelled to do under the old regime. It is within your power to restore my colleagues and me to a position where our fatherland can again rejoice at the contributions which we are capable of making to its progress, welfare and happiness. (f) Nigeria is now SIXTY-SIX MONTHS old as an independent State. The final phase in the struggle for Nigeria?s independence was initiated by my Party in the historic Self-Government motion moved by Chief Anthony Enahoro and supported by me on 31st March, 1953. IT SHOULD BE REGARDED AS MORE THAN IRONICAL, AND AS PALPABLY TRAGIC, THAT TWO OF THE ARCHITECTS OF THAT INDEPENDENCE AND, INDEED, THE PACE-SETTERS AND ACCELERATORS OF ITS FINAL PHASE SHOULD BE UNFREE IN A FREE NIGERIA. In precise terms, I have spent FORTY-SIX out of the SIXTY-SIX MONTHS of independence in one form of confinement or another. I happened to know that the leaders of the old civilian regime, in spite of themselves, did not feel quite easy in their conscience about the plight into which they had manoeuvred me in the scheme of things; and I dare to express the hope and belief that you, personally view my present confinement with concern and disapproval. (g) It is usual ? almost invariably the case ? on the accession of a revolutionary regime, for political prisoners and, indeed, other prisoners of some note, to be released as a mark of disapproval of some of the doings of the old regime, or in token of the new dawn of freedom which comes in the wake of the new regime. It would be invidious to quote unspecific instances. But in the case of my colleagues and myself, by courageously and adamantly opposing the evils which your regime now denounces in the former civilian administration, I think we are perfectly justified if we expect you to regard us as being in tune with your yearnings and aspirations for Nigeria, and therefore entitled to our personal freedoms under your dispensation. 4. In view of the foregoing reasons which clearly demonstrate: (i) that I have always and, under trying circumstances, steadfastly and unyieldingly (a) stood for the UNITY OF NIGERIA, (b)been opposed to POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM with its attendant evils, (c)fostered the growth of DEMOCRACY in Nigeria; (ii) that my incarceration: (a) has led to the heightening of political tension among Nigerians, which tension can only be relaxed by my release, (b)has deprived our fatherland of invaluable services such as we have rendered before, and can still render now and in future, in greater measure; and (iii) that the evils which my colleagues and I condemned and valiantly refused to compromise with in the old civilian government are what you now quite rightly denounce, and are taking active steps to remove in order to pave the way for national and beneficial reconstruction, I most sincerely appeal to you to be good enough to exercise, in favour of myself and my colleagues, the prerogative of mercy vested in you by Section 10 (I) (i) (a) of the Constitution of the Federation Act 1963, by granting me as well as each of my colleagues A FREE PARDON. If you do, your action will be most warmly, heartily, and popularly applauded at home and abroad, and you will go down to history as soldier, statesmen, and humanitarian. Yours truly, OBAFEMI AWOLOWO.

A half-hearted slipshod doer may be likened to a fool who takes five steps forward and three steps backwards ... Again, a half-hearted doer may be likened to a man who sweeps a dirty room with a dirtier broom, and throws back into the room a good quality of the dirt which he has managed to remove from the room.

In order to attain to the goals of economic freedom and prosperity, Nigeria must do certain things as a matter of urgency and priority. It must provide free education (at all levels) and free health facilities for the masses of its citizens.

Nigeria should be a secular State ... As far as possible, there should be separation of activities between the States on the one hand, and religious bodies on the other.

Today, Africa is a continent of COMPETING BEGGAR-NATIONs. We vie with one another for favours from our former colonial masters; and we deliberately fall over one another to invite neo- colonialists to come over to our different territories to preside over our economic fortunes ... Unless a beggar resolutely shakes off, and irrevocably turns his back on, his begging habit, he will forever remain a beggar. For, the more he begs, the more he develops the beggar characteristics of lack of initiative, courage, drive and self-reliance.

A man whose personality is fully developed never fears anything; he cringes not, and never feels inferior to anyone; His breadth of mind enables him to exercise his freedom in such a manner as not to endanger the interests and freedom of others. He is a citizen of the world - free from narrow prejudices. He is what he is because the three main constituents of his entity - his body, brain, and mind - are fully developed. Mens Sana in Corpore Sano!

In order to resolve amiably and in the best interests of all Nigerians certain attributes are required on the part of Nigerian leaders, military as well as non-military leaders alike, namely: vision, realism and unselfishness. But above all , what will keep Nigerian leaders in the North and East unwaveringly in the path of wisdom, realism and moderation is courage and steadfastness on the part of Yoruba people in the course of what they sincerely believe to be right, equitable and just. In the past five years we in the West and Lagos have shown that we possess these qualities in a large measure. If we demonstrate them again as we did in the past, calmly and heroically, we will save Nigeria from further bloodshed and imminent wreck and, at the same time, preserve our freedom and self-respect into the bargain.

Power enslaves: absolute power enslaves absolutely. I have made a diligent search through history, and I have not come across a single instance where a regime, be it military or civilian, which has come to power at its own will, and has wielded that power for many years, has found it easy to extricate itself from the sweet uses and shackles of power, and then hand it to others outside its own hierarchy. It is possible, quite possible, that my search is not exhaustive and so, I stand to be corrected.

Under my proposals, Police is a residual subject, because the immediate problem of maintaining law and order can only be properly and more effectively tackled by the State Government.

Africa has produced more self-seeking leaders than public-spirited ones. But, thank goodness, the masses of the people remain largely unspoilt and uncorrupted, and are developing fast the technique of differentiating gold from lead and real metal from dross. What is more, they have begun to show their preparedness for very rough action against any political leader who may be caught in the game of public trickery and fraud.

In the long run, all human problems do settle themselves aright, whatever anyone or group of people may do. This is so, because all those who do wrong and injustice, are merely setting themselves against the powerful tide of Nature's or, if you like, History's dialectical progression. Temporarily, this tide can be held back; but certainly, not permanently.

Some knowledgeable persons have likened an attack on the East to Lincoln's war against the southern states in America. Two vital factors distinguish Lincoln's campaign from the one now being contemplated in Nigeria. The first is that the American civil war was aimed at the abolition of slavery - that is the liberation of millions of Negroes who were then still being used as chattels and worse than domestic animals. The second factor is that Lincoln and others in the northern states were English-speaking people waging a war of good conscience and humanity against their fellow nationals who were also English speaking. A war against the East in which Northern soldiers are predominant, will only unite the Easterners or the Ibos against their attackers, strengthen them in their belief that they are not wanted by the majority of their fellow-Nigerians, and finally push them out of the Federation.

We have in our midst about 1,000 rich Nigerians who in the past cleverly rigged the sources of the wealth of our nation, and we are now tactically poised to oligopolise all the munificent avenues of riches that may supervene now and in the future. The rich, and the highly-placed in business, public life, and government, are running a dreadful risk in their callous neglect of the poor and down-trodden.

All is fair in war, and starvation is one of the weapons of war. I don't see why we should feed our enemies fat in order for them to fight harder.

In the presence of light, darkness cannot exist; nor can the night of misery and suffering... The compelling urge to be a harbinger of light over Nigeria has been my one consuming passion for more than four decades now ... My yearnings for the descent of light upon Nigeria became so deep that they were soon transformed into an irrepressible call to duty.

The aim of a leader should be the welfare of the people whom he leads. I have used 'welfare' to denote the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the people. With this aim fixed unflinchingly and unchangeably before my eyes I consider it my duty to Yoruba people in particular and to Nigerians in general, to place four imperatives before you this morning. Two of them are categorical and two are conditional. Only a peaceful solution must be found to arrest the present worsening stalemate and restore normalcy. The Eastern Region must be encouraged to remain part of the Federation. If the Eastern Region is allowed by acts of omission or commission to secede from or opt out of Nigeria, then the Western Region and Lagos must also stay out of the Federation. The people of Western Nigeria and Lagos should participate in the ad hoc committee or any similar body only on the basis of absolute equality with the other regions of the Federation.

When all the talents in society are not fully developed, it is not the individuals that are adversely affected alone who suffer; the society as a whole suffers as well. Now, granting that every Nigerian is given an opportunity to develop his talents, it is imperative that he should also be given an opportunity to employ these developed talents. Full development of man and his full employment are not only social imperatives, but also inseparably inter-connected and complementary.

Any system of education which does not help a man to have a healthy and sound body and alert brain, and balanced and disciplined instinctive urges, is both misconceived and dangerous.

Instead of bowing down or condescending to Northerners' wishes, we better endure till death.

Author Picture
First Name
Obafemi
Last Name
Awolowo, fully Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, commonly known as Awo
Birth Date
1909
Death Date
1987
Bio

Nigerian Nationalist, Federalist and Social Democratic Statesman, Trade Unionist, Attorney and Author, Premier of Western Nigeria